Oklahoma could defund AP U.S. History

The newly revised Advanced Placement U.S. History (aka APUSH) framework slights American heroes, say conservative critics. Others say it’s moved left to match college history teaching.

College Board, which runs AP, provided a practice exam in a response to critics.

The APUSH framework focuses on what’s “bad about America,” Dan Fisher, a state legislator in Oklahoma, tells KOSU. There’s little about the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, he complains. “The founders are hardly even mentioned. In fact, there’s one sentence out of George Washington’s farewell address, and it’s basically spun negatively.”

He’s introduced a bill that could bar state funding for APUSH courses, if the state Board of Education decides it violates state guidelines.

The bill lists primary documents that must be taught in all the state’s U.S. history classrooms, reports Newsweek. These include Patrick Henry’s “give me liberty or give me death” speech, John Winthrop’s “city on a hill” sermon and Jonathan Edwards’ sermon on “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

The revised APUSH is an “attempt to have teachers stop chasing trivia, teacher Christine Custred told KOSU. Teachers can choose what documents to teach.

Common Core opponents led the charge against APUSH, notes the Tulsa World. During committee discussion of the bill, Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said she’s asked the state Attorney General to rule on whether AP courses violate last year’s Core repeal law by imposing a national curriculum.

Update: In response to criticism, Fisher will rewrite the “very poorly worded” bill, he told the Oklahoman. His goal is “not to hurt AP,” he said.

Push back on APUSH

The new Advanced Placement U.S. History framework, known as APUSH, doesn’t give students the tools to analyze history, writes Robert L. Paquette, a history professor.

The broad appeal of Howard Zinn’s Marxist baby-talk in AP history classes stems not only from the appeal of  the politics of the his best-selling People’s History of the United States to activist teachers, but its service in easing bored and indifferent students through the past by personalizing and simplifying it through trivialization.  The current emphasis on “identities” often boils down in the classroom to the instructor’s attempt to get the students to empathize with the personal feelings of a favored group of historical actors extracted from the ranks of the oppressed.  While these voices may elicit students’ sympathy, perhaps even guilt, they do little to enhance understanding of the proper yardsticks by which the past must be measured so that it does not become vulgarized.

APUSH treatment of race, class, and gender reflects “presentism,” Paquette writes.

Forms of prejudice like ethnocentrism, which can be seen as universal phenomenon, appear to be a debility that largely afflicted persons of European descent. On one page of a unit dealing with European expansion, for example, the authors assert that Spanish and Portuguese explorers had “little experience dealing with people who were different from themselves.”  Compared to whom?  Kongos?  Aztecs?  Catawbas?

For many high achievers, AP U.S. history will be their last American history course, writes Paquette.

Explaining the American Revolution

On the US History Teachers Blog, Ken Halla recommends this video.

AP U.S. History: Has it moved left?

Critics of the new AP U.S. history framework have gone overboard, writes Rick Hess, a former history teacher.

Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King weren’t removed: The old framework didn’t mention historical figures, except for a few presidents, and the new one follows suit. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are still there.

But he’s concerned about the lack of “attention to America’s motivating ideals or to the resulting governing institutions.”

In the new framework, the only mention that the American Revolution might have had any historical significance is a clause mentioning that it had “reverberations in France, Haiti, and Latin America.” There is little or no discussion of the intermediary institutions that are so critical to American culture, society, and government.

While the standards talk often about ethnic and gender identity, I don’t see any room for a discussion of whether there emerged any kind of distinct American “identity.”

There’s little about economics that’s not about government efforts to combat injustice. Students are introduced to decade after decade of American depravity, but there’s nothing to offer context for 20th century U.S. international engagements.

Democratic presidents are lauded, while Republicans are criticized.  “Where FDR and LBJ are warriors for justice, Reagan is described as a man of ‘bellicose rhetoric’.”

Social history — “as distilled by professors with a taste for 21st century identity politics” — drives the framework.

Critics should communicate their concerns and give the College Board “a chance to act,” Hess concludes.

Here’s a practice exam.

AP’s version of U.S. history must reflect how it’s taught by university professors, writes Checker Finn on Education Gadfly. If it deviates too much, colleges will deny credit. That means “every philosophical, pedagogical, and political fad to overwhelm the faculties of today’s post-modern campuses will creep into the courses taught to sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds.”  

. . . ask yourself whether the collegiate version of U.S. history—warts and all, with emphasis on the warts—is what you want kids to learn about the nation’s past while in elementary, middle, and high school. Might it not be more important for them to internalize basic chronology, fundamental events, key people, and major accomplishments than to agonize about the injustices and downtrodden of bygone years?

College Board says students learn all that before taking AP U.S. history. But do they?

What are the best ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ songs?


An ABC special on Sept. 7, The ABC’s of Schoolhouse Rock, will rank the series’ all-time best songs, writes Kristen Baldwin on Entertainment Weekly.

The Chandra Wilson-hosted special will feature interviews with the creators and writers of the Emmy-winning series, which ran from 1973 to 1985.

I’m Just a BillConjunction Junction, and maybe even Interplanet Janet are favorites, writes Baldwin, who’s voting for Sufferin’ till Suffrage.

I like No More Kings. What’s your favorite?

Critics: New AP U.S. history has no heroes

Washington Crossing the Delaware as painted by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze.

College Board’s new framework for Advanced Placement U.S. History “inculcates a consistently negative view of American history by highlighting oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country,” charge conservatives.

Instead of striving to build a “City upon a Hill,” as generations of students have been taught, the colonists are portrayed as bigots who developed “a rigid racial hierarchy” that was in turn derived from “a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority.” The Framework . . . omits the colonists’ growing commitment to religious freedom and the emergence of a pluralistic society that lacked an entrenched aristocracy.

. . .  the Framework makes no mention of the sacrifices America’s Greatest Generation made to rescue much of the world from a long night of Nazi and Japanese tyranny. Instead, the Framework focuses solely on the negative aspects of America’s involvement in the war:  “the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values.”

Heroes such as Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Dwight Eisenhower, Jackie Robinson, Jonas Salk, Neil Armstrong, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are not mentioned in the document, charge critics. But it has “space for Chief Little Turtle, the Students for a Democratic Society, and the Black Panthers.”

In response to the criticism, the College Board released a practice exam — to everyone, not just certified AP teachers — and promised to “clarify” the framework.

“Our founders are resonant throughout” the exam, wrote College Board President David Coleman wrote. “Just like the previous framework, the new framework does not remove individuals or events that have been taught by AP teachers in prior years. Instead, it is just a framework, requiring teachers to populate it with content required by their local standards and priorities.”

The practice exam is here.

The First Vote by A.R. Waud

The First Vote by A.R. Waud

Questions ask students to interpret quotes by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Other questions deal with immigration, women’s rights and urban poverty.

One question asks students to analyze an image:

a) Briefly explain the point of view expressed through the image about ONE of the following.
• Emancipation
• Citizenship
• Political participation

b) Briefly explain ONE outcome of the Civil War that led to the historical change depicted in the image.

c) Briefly explain ONE way in which the historical change you explained in part b was challenged in the period between 1866 and 1896.

Teach the American dream

“As Congress moves towards opening new paths for immigrants, it should find a way to restore the foundation of American citizenship — the self-confident teaching of American history in our nation’s schools, writes Christina Hoff Sommers in The American.

The immigration bill will reaffirm “quintessential American values” and restore “the American dream,” writes Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.
But “few of our students — foreign or native born — know much about the provenance of those values,” writes Sommers. “Our schools no longer teach the American dream.”

Once, immigrant and native-born children learned about America in school, “and came to view themselves as part of an extraordinary culture of liberty,” she writes. That civic mission has been neglected.

The latest Department of Education national history assessment (2010) shows that only 12 percent of American high school seniors have a firm grasp of U.S. history. More than half (55 percent) scored below the “Basic” achievement level. A 2012 Roper survey of college graduates found widespread ignorance about U.S. history and basic functions of government: only 17 percent of those polled, for example, could identify famous words from the Gettysburg Address or knew the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Noting a 2009 study that found that 39 percent of Americans could not name a single right protected by the First Amendment, civil libertarian Greg Lukianoff has described us as a nation in the process of “unlearning liberty.”

We are perilously close to testing Thomas Jefferson’s famous admonition: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress exams in civics, U.S. history, and geography have been indefinitely postponed for fourth and twelfth graders, reports Heartland. The Obama administration blames a $6.8 million sequestration budget cut. The three exams will be replaced by a new test on Technology and Engineering Literacy.

“Without these tests, advocates for a richer civic education will not have any kind of test to use as leverage to get more civic education in the classrooms,” said John Hale, associate director at the Center for Civic Education.

Be it remembered!

From Slate‘s Vault, here’s how the Philadelphia Freeman’s Journal reported the Svictory in the Revolutionary War. “Laus Deo!” means “praise be to God!”

Front Page

We hold these truths . . .


Many students see citizenship as 'stupid'

It’s not just that many U.S. students don’t know civics or U.S. history, writes Stanford Education Professor William Damon. Increasingly, they don’t care about citizenship.

“Being American is not really special,” said one high school student in a survey.  Another replied that citizenship is “stupid to me,” saying,  “I don’t want to belong to any country. It just feels like you are obligated to this country.”

Many influential educators believe “global citizenship” is the proper aim of civics instruction, not allegiance to the U.S., Damon writes.

As global citizens, it is argued, our primary identification should be with the humanity of the world, and our primary obligation should be to the universal ideals of human rights and justice.

Devotion to one’s own nation state, commonly referred to as patriotism, is suspect because it may turn into a militant chauvinism or a dangerous “my country right or wrong” perspective.

Schools with large immigrant populations neglect teaching students about “American identity and the American tradition,” he writes.

Educational critic Diane Ravitch observed this phenomenon when visiting a New York City school whose principal proudly spoke of the school’s efforts to celebrate the cultures of all the immigrant students. Ravitch writes, “I asked him whether the school did anything to encourage students to appreciate American culture, and he admitted with embarrassment that it did not.”

These and other American students are being urged to identify with, on the one hand, customs from the native lands they have departed and, on the other hand, with the abstract ideals of an amorphous global culture. Lost in between these romantic affiliations is an identification with the nation where these students actually will practice citizenship.

Adding to the dysfunction of this educational choice, as Ravitch writes, is the absurdity of teaching “a student whose family fled to this country from a tyrannical regime or from dire poverty to identify with that nation rather than with the one that gave the family refuge.”

Damon suggests civics instructors teach students to take pride in their country’s best traditions. In our recent history, students could learn about “the civil rights movement that extended rights to millions of citizens,” the victories over totalitarianism that “extended new freedoms to millions of subjugated people in Europe and Asia” and “the building of a middle class that offered economic freedom” to citizens and immigrants alike.

Damon is the author of Failing Liberty 101.